Early flu jab strategy announced after last year’s shortage chaos

Scotland’s health services are gearing up for this winter’s flu vaccination programme.

A flu jab. Picture: TSPL
A flu jab. Picture: TSPL
A flu jab. Picture: TSPL

Joe FitzPatrick, MSP, public health minister, has outlined the planned approach strategy to safeguard elderly and vulnerable people to the Scottish Parliament.

Last year the vaccination programme run into difficulties across the country.

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In October 2018 officials from Community Pharmacy Scotland claimed that private pharmacies had run out of the standard flu vaccine for people aged 65 to 74.

Many NHS GP surgeries also informed patients that the vaccine intended for those aged 16 to 64, at risk from conditions such as diabetes or pregnancy, would not be available until the end of this month.

Outlining the plan for winter 2019-2020, Mr FitzPatrick said: “Preparations are well underway for the forthcoming flu vaccination programme which will begin in October with the launch of the public awareness campaign.

“This year’s campaign will emphasise just how serious flu can be and provide reassurance that vaccination provides the best protection against flu.

“We are monitoring flu activity in the southern hemisphere closely.

“The vaccines which have been procured for Scotland this season are in line with the recommendations of the independent expert joint committee on vaccination and immunisation.”

Mr FitzPatrick added: “We would strongly encourage all those who are eligible for a free vaccination through the NHS to get it.”

Virulent strains of winter flu have been previously blamed for a rise in deaths after winter 2017 saw the number of flu-linked deaths ­treble to 331.

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Miles Briggs, MSP, Scottish Conservative health secretary, said he welcomed the Scottish Government’s early announcement to safeguard lives.

“The fact that they have made this early announcement so early shows that they are taking steps to get it right this time by making sure they get the best strains available.

“It was quite clear that last winter Scotland was not as prepared as England and Wales.

“However, there are still a number of issues which can be improved on.

Mr Briggs added: “One area which could see improvement is making sure key front line NHS and social care staff go and get their flu vaccinations in their own time rather than work time.

“Staff are so busy with patients and people in their care that they cannot always get away for appointments.”